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Garcia & Johnson Recommend Delaying Funding For Replenishment Police Academy Class Until FY13 Budget Actions (Sept. 2012 For Period Ending Sept. 2013), Request City Mgm't Plan In March 2012 Re Funding Academy Classes In Future Years (Non-Binding); Schipske Seeks Academy Funding Now; Police Officers Ass'n President Warns Of Rising Crime Amid Further Delay

Editor's note: On LBReport.com Big News Sunday (Feb. 5), Councilman Garcia spoke by telephone with us regarding the Committee meeting described below and the motion he made. To hear that conversation, click here

(Feb. 3, 2012, updated Feb. 6) -- LBReport.com provides detailed coverage -- including extended transcript excerpts and quick-launch on-demand audio -- of a significant Jan. 31 meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee (Councilmembers Garcia, Schipske, Johnson).

The Committee engaged in an extended discussion (audio, video and transcripts below) of whether and when to fund a replenishment Police Academy class.

Committee chair Councilman Robert Garcia made a motion, seconded with an amendment (below) by Councilman James Johnson, "to request the full Council to direct the City Manager to prepare a multi year police academy and recruitment plan and present it to the Council during the beginning of the March budget discussion...presented at the start of the budget process so that we're able to adequately look at those numbers"

Councilman James Johnson conditioned his second to Garcia's motion on what he called a "friendly amendment":

Councilman Johnson: So I just make a friendly amendment...I do think it should be consistent with our budgeted levels and we can talk about this summer about what that level should be, some of us may want to change that, but would you accept a friendly amendment that would look at a multi year plan consistent with our budgeted levels?"

Councilmam Garcia: Well I think it's going to, it would have to look at what our budgeted levels are. Are you talking about, you're not referring to proportional share, you're just referring to [Johnson: no] our budgeted levels [Johnson: no], not referring to any policies per se?

Councilman Johnson: No, I'm just saying is clearly what you're saying is we need a multi-year plan to make sure we have the officers, police and fire, to fill positions, and I agree with that, but I'm saying that every year in the summer we decide our budget, I'm not prejudging what that's going to be but whatever we decide in the budget, I presume that you want your multi-year plan to fit within the budget we adopt as a Council, right?

Councilman Garcia: Of course, absolutely.

Councilman Johnson: With that, I'll second your motion.

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske dissented, offered a substitute motion to direct city management to use available funds to fund a replenishment Academy class immediately...and didn't receive a second.

The Committee majority's recommendation now goes to the full City Council on Feb 14.

The Jan. 31 Committee meeting was the first time that Committee chair Garcia called a meeting of the Committee he chairs to discuss LBPD staffing levels (and a replenishment police academy class) since Nov. 30, 2010...when it received a report from Police Chief Jim McDonnell on police staffing. The Committee took no action and made no report to the full Council on the issue...and no replenishment police academy class (to replace retiring/exiting officers) was budgeted by the Council (Sept. 2011 vote) for FY12 (and hasn't been budgeted for the past three fiscal years).

The last Public Safety Committee meeting (Nov. 2010) took place after the Council voted in Sept. 2010 and Sept. 2009 to cut 140 budgeted sworn officers to help balance City Hall's budget. During 2011, the Committee met on other matters but held no meetings on police/fire cuts proposed for FY12 by Mayor Foster and city management (Aug. 2011) and enacted by a Council majority (Sept. 2011, 6-3 vote, Schipske, Gabelich, Neal dissenting).

LBReport.com provided LIVE webcast coverage of the Jan. 31, 2012 Committee proceedings (not available on City Hall website) and then made the video available on-demand (City website offers delayed access). LBReport.com adds quick-access on-demand audio for salient portions of the Committee proceedings on links below. "Whoosh" sound indicates audio edit; lengthier full Committee audio available via video links also below.

Click to launch quick-access on-demand audio below

For extended video coverage (from LBReport.com's live webcast; video is in two parts), click video icons below:

At the Jan. 31, 2012 Committee meeting, LBPD Administration Bureau Chief Braden Phillips opened with a presentation on LBPD staffing levels and PD management's FY13 priorities, which include a replenishment police academy class.

Committee chair Garcia indicated he would make a motion that asks city management to present a report in March on City Hall's fiscal situation and possible funding for a replenishment police academy in FY13 as well as future years. The action would effectively delay Council voted action on whether to fund a replenishment Police Academy class until budget adoption in Sept. 2012 and involves no legally binding commitments thereafter. City management's budgets have also routinely included police academy funding when proposed (July-August), which the Council has for the past three years removed and reallocated in September to fund current officers.

LBPD Lt. Steve James testified in his capacity as President of the LB Police Officers Ass'n., stating in pertinent part:

LBPOA Pres./Lt. Steve James: The [replenishment Police] Academy is needed just to maintain the [staffing] level we're at now. If you guys decided today or the Council as a full body decided this evening to order a police academy, we're looking 26 to 28 months down the road before we have a police officer who can work in a beat by themselves handling calls for service. 26 to 28 months.

So if we're below 820 today [total officers, includes roughly 60 contracted officers] and it's going to take 26 to 28 months, you can also count on further attrition during that 26 to 28 month period of probably 50 maybe 60 more police officers. That brings us down into the mid 700s, a level that I don't believe is acceptable in this city and one that, if allowed to occur, guarantees drastic increases in crime.

Our demographics are very similar to those patroled by the Sheriff's Dept. and LAPD, yet their crime is not going up and ours is. And there's one very distinct difference that I see: they have committed to maintaining staffing levels on their police forces, the Sheriff's Dept. and LAPD.

Their crime is staying stagnant or still continuing to see decreases where we're seeing increases. The difference: our staffing level has dropped [while] they have maintained -- they're not attrition out any more officers, they're hiring to fill their attrition. Not growing, but hiring to fill their attrition.

They have the same realignment issues we do; the same demographic population we do and actually the same criminal population that I think we do.

So again: I do believe staffing matters. It takes a commitment to a staffing level. You make a commitment today to a staffing level, you're making a commitment to at least halting the increase in crime...

Additional podium speakers followed. LBReport.com publisher Bill Pearl sought clarification on numbers cited in management's Power Point on LBPD staffing levels, which Pearl said included roughly 60 officers not available for routine citywide deployment (contracted to handle Port/Airport/LBCC/LB Transit duties and paid by those entities, not the Council-budgeted General Fund); he also sought details on some cited crime statistics. PD management responded in detail regarding contracted staffing numbers and Committee chair Garcia asked PD PIO staff to provide info on the latter after the Committee meeting.

Long time community advocate John Deats noted that he'd been a multiple victim of residential burglaries. "There is nothing more devastating to your mentality than coming home and finding your home has been burglarized. To see that category of crime going up in double-digits is most concerting to me and I hope you pay close attention to the need for a replacement academy." Mr. Deats indicated he agrees with everything Lt. James said but said based on speaking with former LB Police Chiefs he believes the lead time for a good productive police officer is three to five years. "You have no time to waste in my mind in conducting a recruit academy, and urged the Council to abandon proportional budget cuts "or I don't know how you're going to survive it."

Committee chair Garcia said he'd spoken with Police Chief Jim McDonnell -- who wasn't present at the Committee meeting where he could be asked about his views directly -- and Councilman Garcia continued:

Councilman Garcia: I think there's no question that while the City is under major fiscal challenges and we also have to I think show I think restraint in areas of the unknowns of where the economy is. I think there is no question that there's a need to look at our police numbers, there's a need to increase the amount of officers that we have on the street...I've had a couple of conversations with the Chief this last week or so about our Academy, about where our numbers are and I think he's made it pretty clear that we certainly would like to see an Academy happen and certainly see more officers on the street. The reality is that we have to look at that in context of where our budget is and what we can afford. But for us to start planning immediately on an Academy and know that the plan is moving forward, not just I think for this year but we need to create a multi-year look at the Police Academy and police recruitment and not just what's going to happen for the rest of 2012 or 2013 but what's going to happen in 2014, what's going to happen in 2015 and how are all of those years and all of the Academies happen in the future affect our sworn staffing and our budget at the same time.

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske responded:

Councilwoman Schipske: I do think though this is kind of deja vu all over again...How many public safety meetings or Council meetings do we have to have before the majority of this Council finally does something.

And I'm just going to say this straight out: The majority of this Council did a great disservice to the residents by not restoring public safety funding it had access to oil revenue available...

...Commercial burglaries are up tremendously and...if we could get beat reports instead of this amalgamous report citywide, that a great many or a large proportionate shares of these burglaries are happening over in the east side, they're happening in my district. Crime is up over there. Thank God we don't have the violent crime but I agree with Lieutenant James that it's a precursor...

This is a very serious problem and we sit here and we beat our chests and we say we need to do something but we need to do something. We have two sources of funding. We had an oil surplus last year that could have been redirected to restore public safety immediately...We also were just told last week that we have a $5 million in surplus at the end of the budget year, and I understand Prop H funds are up [which can be used for equipment]...I think we need to get off the dime and say these are our priorities in the residential priorities...

Residential burglaries [in the 5th district] are on the uptick...even starting to hit people when they go to church. We've got a rash of burglaries going on with cars who the people are in services over in the 5th district and they're being burglarized...

Knowing that I was on the other side of the issue when we tried to restore public safety doesn't make this a pleasant task to sit here and listen to 'ain't this awful,' Yes, it was awful six months ago; it was awful a year ago and our staffing continues to fall...

Councilman James Johnson stated:

Councilman Johnson: ...These are difficult times. We have to do with less...I think anytime we talk about crime, particularly property crime, I think we need to recognize that while the city has a responsibility to provide officers, to provide public safety, residents also have a responsibility...Lock your car please; keep the garage locked; don't have the valuables in the cars...

...I don't think following our financial policies is silliness. I think it's important that we adopt policies that are prudent for the long term and then we live by them. If we're going to change the policies, we can...While other cities did have public safety layoffs, we didn't...

...My hope is that we go through a budget process where we look at all our needs across the city and then we can talk, and we can disagree, and that's part of the process, and budget accordingly...I think the budget process is the time to decide...what are our needs across the city and how are we going to allocate the limited resources that we have; that only makes sense...

To take one-time monies to fund ongoing costs, what you're saying is we're going to pay your salary this year and we're going to lay off some people next year...It's wrong to say we're going to play games with your positions and it's also the wrong financial policy...

...[W]e need to be smart on crime, given our budget reality. Do we need more police officers and firefighters? Absolutely, but we also have a lot of other needs in the city, so let's come together in the budget process and say, what revenues do we have and how are we going to spend those revenues to have the best possible city, a city that's as safe as possible, a city that has libraries that serve our residents, a city that has parks that we need, a city that actually puts money into streets, sidewalks, tree trimming. So I think we need to take a big look and that's what the budget process is all about...

Councilman Garcia then stated his motion as follows: "To request the full Council to direct the City Manager to prepare a multi-year Police Academy and recruitment plan and present it to the Council during the beginning of the March budget discussion." Councilman Johnson seconded the motion and offered a friendly amendment (to which Garcia agreed) that the plan be "consistent with our budgeted levels, and we can talk about this summer about what that level should be, some of us may want to change that, but would you accept a friendly amendment that would look at that multi-year plan consistent with our budgeted levels?" and Johnson added "Every year in the summer we decide our budget, and we're not prejudging what that's going to be, but whatever we decide in the budget, I presume that you want your multi-year plan to fit within the budget we adopt..."

"Of course, absolutely," Councilman Garcia replied.

Councilwoman Schipske responded:

Councilwoman Schipske: Would that be the same plan we brought forth last year and the year before and year before? We've had staff work on this every single year, a multi-year recruitment and academy plan.

C'mon guys. We either are going to make a commitment...Waiting for another budget cycle and another report may make us all feel good, but the reality is we are losing officers; it takes a lot of time to get an Academy going; we've already put staff through requesting this report, Mr. Garcia.

We had it here last year. The Chief spoke about the need for an Academy and a replenishment Academy. Fire Chief spoke the same thing. We had the figures in front of us which should have been here today about how many were going to retire, when we needed to have them. We have all of this. And to wait now until March at the beginning of a budget cycle, we do have a surplus; we do know what the timing is for an Academy. So I would strongly suggest that be the suggestion to Council, that the Council work with the city manager to figure out how it is that we can start an Academy before this budget year is over, because we won't be able to do it if we wait until March and April.

Councilman Garcia replied:

Councilman Garcia: ...I think the intention is that the Manager isn't going to present us with a report but a funding plan, and I think that would be the intention.

We're the funding plan. They've told us, with all due respect what they need. We're the funding plan. The Manager is going to say -- and he's not here -- but the Manager is going to say it's up to the Council's direction how they want the money spent. So this is kind of a feel-good exercise I think to say to the public, you know, we're looking at something. We have done this every single year we have been on Council. We've have had every Chief tell us that he needed an Academy, and when it got budgeted, it got pulled out.

We're the ones. We do the plan, not the City Manager. We decide how to take our revenue and where to put it, and that decision was made the last budget year [Sept. 2011] not to put it into an Academy.

Councilman Garcia: Correct, and I think what the motion speaks to is that in March we're going to be receiving an update on the budget and the outlook as far as is where we're looking at the budget as far as forecasting in the future, and I think having that information is going to be important for us as we make decisions on bringing on a new Academy. And I think that's at least the intention of the motion is that we're also prepared to make those decisions within the scope of having the financial numbers..

Councilwoman Schipske...Well we had an end of the year report. We know we have a $5 million surplus. We know how much an Academy costs...We know we have the funds. We know we can schedule it. We know we could direct staff to do that...I don't think we need to wait till March to ask the full Council to take up the issue of funding a replenishment Academy.

Councilman Garcia: The request would go to the Council immediately as far as to have the discussion on asking for the plan but I do think that we need to have our financial information...In my conversation with the Chief as early as last night, is that we're looking right now, and the Department is looking at what the budget's going to look like from a multi-year perspective on the numbers that are coming in...Listen, I understand your passion and I think that there is no question that we need more officers and I understand where you're coming from in that. I'd like to see us, and I'd like to ask our Finance Director when he comes in March, to present that information and at the same time that we're presented with a plan, not a report, but an actual plan put together and increase our recruitment numbers in the request for an Academy that we start this year and moving forward.

Councilwoman Schipske: ..Civil Service came to us. We went through an entire two sessions about how long it takes to vet people...We have gone through this. We need to get off the dime. I'm going to vote against it. I know that Councilwoman Gabelich and I have been talking about putting on the agenda, just we need to get the Academy funded, we need to get it funded out of the identified funds that we have and get going...I think this is just a feel good thing and not an action item, and I think we need to make some action 'cause our residents are really getting upset when they hear that we don't have enough police officers.

Councilman Johnson: ...I think the purpose of the motion is we all want an Academy. It's only fiscally prudent that we make sure we have the money to pay those officers as they get out of the Academy. That's what this is about. So during the budget process, yes, I think we probably can have an Academy some time but if we have the Academy and then lay all those people off, it's obviously absurd and it's wrong to the officers...

Councilwoman Schipske: With all due respect, Mr. Johnson, we had the money and all those really nice feel good gadgets, they [Police Dept.] haven't spent one penny, so when you say it's made Long Beach safer, they haven't spent it, because they're struggle as a Department to make ends meet, because we cut really deeply into services that should not have been cut. So can say cameras are great; they don't replace police officers on the street; cameras have not been put in place, the new technology stuff has not happened; the ShotSpotter hasn't happened and we're four or five months into the budget...

I think it's offensive to tell people that the reason about residential burglaries they need to lock up their houses. I had an 85 year old woman, men broke into her locked home and burglarized her. We just had a report of a locked garage, double bolted, they got into the garage and they got into a locked car and they cleaned that car out. I would be very careful about telling people they need to be more helpful and that we'd have less crime...

Councilman Johnson: ...I don't think it's irresponsible to ask residents to join with us and be partners in trying to reduce crime. I think that just makes common sense...Any crime against anyone is a shame and we're not about blaming the victim, but I think it only makes sense to ask people what police officers do at every community meeting which is please help us police this city or help us keep crime low, so I do think it's appropriate to ask people, you know what, we are partners, when you leave your car unlocked, if you're victimized, that's going to be resources that aren't going somewhere else, so I think that's entirely appropriate and I'll continue to do that.

But I look forward in the budget process to having a conversation, and hearing if you have plans to raise taxes, to bring in additional money, and happy to have that conversation, or if you have plans to cut specific reductions, whether that's to cut tree trimming or shut down a library or to stop filling potholes, we can have that conversation and have the tradeoffs...

In testimony that followed in the Committee meeting, Lt. James stated:

Councilman Garcia reiterated his motion as follows: "to direct the full Council to ask management to prepare a multi year police academy and recruitment plan and to present it to the Council at the same time they receive the March budget update [same time frame]...It's a report on how we would be funding our Police Academy here on out over the course of a multi-year [period]."

LBPOA President Steve James responded at the Council podium as follows:

...When you go into the budget process you're going to be told you need to make cuts. The City Manager will ask you what you want to cut. And you have to establish priorities.

Those priorities really should be the same today as they will be in March. So putting off the establishment of your priorities doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

As we see it in the presentation...the three year budget outlook prepared for Fiscal Year 12 shows a projected deficit of $14 million to the General Fund...

I told you so is going to become a very strong part of my verbiage. The longer you put it off, the more victims you are creating...

It's your job as Councilmembers to set the priorities. Proportional share [budget policy favored by Mayor Foster and Council majority] doesn't do that. If you want to set priorities in March, not today, that's your prerogative, but I don't see why your priorities will be different in March than they are today.

I would urge you to urge the Council to fund a Police Academy now. Commit to it, regardless of what cuts need to be made to have it, so that we can keep the community safe.

Also testifying was Jessica Quinton, who cited the importance to her of sufficient police. She added that she expects Sacramento-directed budget "realignment" to result in some of the largest number of current state prisoners returning to Long Beach.

Councilman Garcia followed public testimony by inviting colloquy with LB Financial Management Dir. John Gross, who confirmed that in March he plans to provide updated oil revenue, pension reform savings and "will try to give an overall status of where we think FY12 is, 13 is and where we're heading into the future, both our revenues and our expenditure patterns and I would anticipate that we would be arable to give an update on where we see the deficits, because there will be deficits for the next few years, so I think that will provide a basis for decisions Council may want to make."

In colloquy with Councilmembers Schipske, Administration Bureau Chief Phillips said the cost of a replenishment police academy included $1.5 million salaries for the recruits with total Academy cost in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. He added that once given the go-ahead to proceed, the City would have to identify a cadre of instructors (who'd been eliminated in prior years) who'll be certified by the state to teach the Academy classes.

Councilwoman Schipske made a substitute motion to recommend that the City Manager work with the Police Dept. on establishing an replenishment Academy class in the current fiscal year (FY12), using surplus funds from oil revenue or other sources to fund 17 recruits to replace officers not replaced to date. Her motion died for lack of a second from Councilmembers Garcia or Johnson.

The Committee majority then approved Councilman Garcia's recommended action 2-1 (Schipske dissenting), sending it to the full City Council for discussion now scheduled for Feb. 14.

In a mass emailing the day after the Committee vote (Feb. 1), Councilman Garcia wrote in pertinent part:

...Yesterday, as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I brought forward a proposal supported by Councilman James Johnson, to begin a Multi-Year planning process for our Police Academy and Police recruitment. We need to begin long term planning to ensure that we increase our force, but also do so in a fiscally responsible way.

On February 14th, we will be asking the full City Council to direct the City Manager to bring back a Multi-Year Police Academy Plan in March - at the same time that the Council will receive an update on our city budget and the effect of our public safety pension reform agreements.

For more details, you can read today's story in the Press-Telegram...

Thanks again and Go Long Beach.

To hear what Public Safety Committee chair Garcia said at the November 30, 2010 Committee meeting regarding police staffing and a replenishment police academy class, click here.

To hear what then-candidate Garcia said in announcing his 2009 special election run to succeed Bonnie Lowenthal in the 1st Council district, click here.

The Council's upcoming Sept. 2012 budget vote (on the FY13 City Hall budget) will include at least one and potentially two or three new Councilmembers. District 8 will have a new representative with the exit of term limited incumbent Councilwoman Rae Gabelich. Incumbents face opponents in two other Council districts. In district 2, Janet Ballantyne is challenging Vice Mayor Lowenthal (who's on ballot) and in district 4, John Watkins and Daryl Supernaw face each other on the ballot with Councilman O'Donnell seeking a third term via write-in.

Long Beach's current budgeted police level is now roughly at or below what the City provided (with a smaller population) when Mayor Beverly O'Neill took office in July 1994.

Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city) currently provides its taxpayers with a per capita police level roughly equivalent to cutting L.A.P.D.'s police level by over 25%. Los Angeles City Hall provides over 2.0 officers per thousand residents while Signal Hill delivers close to 3.0.

Virtually all of the officers for which LB City Hall sought federal taxpayer-paid police hiring grants (telling Washington that Long Beach acknowledged the need to increase its police levels) have been eliminated by City Hall budget actions in Sept. 2009, 2010, 2011 by Council majorities under Mayor Bob Foster.

In 2006, candidate Bob Foster pledged to increase police on the street by 100 officers during his first term, and was on his way to doing so, reaching 961 budgeted officers for citywide deployment (included 17 police academy recruits; figure (figure doesn't include roughly 60 officers paid for and contracted to the Port/LB Airport/LBCC/LBUSD/LB Transit)

In Long Beach, the economic downturn (which escalated with Wall Street's financial crisis in Sept. 2008) was compounded by LB City Hall's approval of union contracts that gave raises to three major city employee unions (that had endorsed Foster's 2006 election) without including pension reforms. The Council approved the contracts in 2007 (POA contract reopener, no voted Council dissent) and 2008 (Firefighters, 8-1 Gabelich dissenting) and non-public safety employees (7-2, Gabelich and DeLong dissenting).

As the recession deepened, Mayor Foster said the contracts weren't sustainable and insisted on pension changes (employees paying more of their salary toward their pensions) and enacting a second-tier pension system for new hires. LB's police and firefighter unions agreed to the pension changes in 2011; to date, the union representing non-public-safety employees hasn't done so.

Developing...with further to follow on LBReport.com.

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